The Metro Board has unanimously voted to approve a $1,272,632,356 contract to Walsh/Shea Corridor Constructors for the final design and construction of the 8.5-mile Crenshaw/LAX Line light rail line.
The project is funded in part by the Measure R half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008. The light rail line will run between the Expo Line and the Green Line with eight new stations, including an underground station at Leimert Park and a street-level station at Hindry to help serve the Westchester community.
The project is currently forecast to open in 2019 with major construction beginning in 2014. Utility work is already underway.
Dozens of residents of the Crenshaw corridor testified to the Board, asking them to reconsider the project and instead put an 11-block segment between 48th and 59th streets through Park Mesa Heights underground. The train will run at street level through that section. Many speakers, including small children, said they believed the train won't be safe. Their common refrain: “it's not over until it's under.”
Board Member Richard Katz thanked the community for their input but also stressed that the South L.A. community was not being singled out — that, in fact, the vast majority of Metro's rail system is at grade.
Board Member Mark Ridley-Thomas, whose district includes the project, introduced an amendment asking Metro to study other business mitigation programs around the nation to help create a program that will best help businesses along the Crenshaw corridor deal with construction.
On this issue from an earlier post on The Source:
•First and foremost, it needs to be understood that the Board of Directors and the Federal Transit Administration have approved the project with a street-running segment through Park Mesa Heights. The Board has stuck with this decision.
Firms that submitted proposals for the project were allowed to submit “Alternative Technical Concepts” (or ATCs) that could potentially lower the cost of the project, improve its quality, reliability, performance or schedule. However, Metro did not consider ATCs that significantly changed the project or required a supplemental environmental impact statement/report.
•Three points worth considering about the stretch of tracks through Park Mesa Heights. 1) The street is 180 feet wide and a train can safely operate in the median, as streetcars used to on Crenshaw; 2) Building a tunnel for this segment would cost up to an additional $250 million; 3) Adding a tunnel at this time would require that the final environmental studies be re-done, which Metro officials say would take nine to 18 months and could jeopardize federal funds being used to help build the line.
When the train line is completed, Crenshaw Boulevard will have three general traffic lanes in each direction through Park Mesa Heights, in addition to a parking lane and bike lanes. Metro says it will plant two trees for every tree removed to build the project.
•The train will pass near Crenshaw High School. Metro light rail trains currently pass near Dorsey High School (Expo Line), Blair High School (Gold Line), Mendez Learning School (Gold Line) and Ramona High School (Gold Line) and have thus far done so without incident. Metro has worked closely with the California Public Utilities Commission and the city of Los Angeles to incorporate safety features into the Crenshaw/LAX Line, including fencing, signage, pedestrian gates, crosswalks and security cameras.
•For those who are comparing the Crenshaw/LAX Line to the Blue Line: The Blue Line opened in 1990 and was the first modern light rail project in our region since the streetcars stopped running in the early 1960s. Many safety features have been added to the line since then and overall incidents have declined. Metro is continuing to add more safety elements along the line, including a new effort to reduce suicides.
•About 55 percent of the Crenshaw/LAX Line is separated by the street — that is, 55 percent of the line will be in a tunnel, in a trench or an aerial structure above streets. By comparison, the Blue Line is 20 percent grade separated, the Pasadena Gold Line is 42 percent, the Eastside Gold Line is 37 percent and the Expo Line is 20 percent. The Green Line is 100 percent grade-separated because it runs in the median of the 105 freeway and aerial structures.
•This is also the reason that on a per mile basis, the Crenshaw/LAX Line will be the most expensive light rail line that Metro has built. The Purple Line Extension subway will be more expensive but it is a type of transit called “heavy rail” that can carry more people and run at higher speeds. It is being built as a subway because of the dense area along its alignment (mostly under Wilshire Boulevard) and expected high ridership.
One other note: Part B of the item was struck – it concerned the amount of contract changes that needed to be approved by the Board. The Board will revisit that issue at a later meeting.